One of the keys to enacting the right infection control measures is ensuring the cleaning staff has access to the tools they need to keep the facility as clean as possible, and as clean as required by professional standards.

Many hospitals require vacuuming of hard surface floors, opposed to dust mopping, because vacuuming reduces the amount of dust and other bacteria such as polyps and spores that can become airborne. In fact, vacuuming hard floors has become the newest trend in reducing the spread of infection in hospitals.

But vacuums can also serve as dust disseminators if they are not operating properly. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for environmental infection control in healthcare facilities, vacuum cleaners should be maintained to minimize dust dispersal, and be equipped with HEPA filters, especially for use in high-risk patient-care areas.

“In the healthcare market, if it doesn’t say HEPA, managers won’t look at it,” says Darren Tharp, equipment specialist, Central Sanitary Supply, Modesto, California.

As is the case with any piece of equipment, not all HEPA vacuums are the same. In a healthcare environment, distributors say it is important to choose a vacuum that can stand up to the wear and tear of commercial use. Although some consumer-grade vacuums do indicate HEPA capabilities, they are rarely constructed to the specifications required in a healthcare environment. For best results, choose a vacuum that is specifically built for healthcare use with a filter that has been tested and sealed by the Carpet and Rug Institute.

Another important attribute that healthcare facilities covet in a vacuum is one that promotes quiet cleaning. Low-decibel vacuums that emit little-to-no noise allow for around-the-clock cleaning with minimal disturbance to patients.

 “Sound is a huge consideration in healthcare,” says Mark Searcy, sales manager with Atlanta-based SouthEast LINK. “Most backpacks and vacuums out on the market today will be in the mid-60s decibels-wise. There are some that are built quite well that are in the mid-40s.”

Uprights with a sealed filter bag chamber are more prevalent than any other type of vacuum in healthcare. However, there is good reason to investigate using newer style backpack vacuums.

“The newer backpacks have filtration and noise muffling that make them more likely to be used in healthcare than their older counterparts,” says Uselman. “They are also more versatile for use in other applications such as dusting and vacuuming hard floors.”

Healthcare facilities also tend to consider cordless vacuums.

“If you’re in healthcare, a cordless unit is something that I would consider because of trip-and-fall issues,” says Searcy. “If you’re in a long-term care facility or assisted living facility, anything you can do to reduce trip-and-fall hazards would be something good to consider.” 

NICK BRAGG is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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Using Vacuums To Fight The Spread Of Infections